Weiss v. Barribeau, No. 16-3039 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Weiss, a Wisconsin inmate, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that Department of Corrections employees failed to prevent an assault by his cellmate that resulted in a broken ankle for Weiss and that they left his broken ankle untreated for months. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants, finding that Weiss had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a). The Seventh Circuit reversed, noting that the defendants did not contest Weiss’s factual allegations, that he had been transferred from the prison, and that he had been given psychotropic medicine that produced serious side effects. He had submitted a timely complaint about his treatment to the prison’s complaint examiner and a second administrative complaint; the complaint examiner’s correspondence was addressed to Weiss at Racine, where he no longer was. The district court ignored the fact that he had “d[one] the best he could do under the circumstances,” given his transfer to the mental-health center and, once he was there, being forced to take psychotropic drugs. Prisoners cannot be required to exhaust remedies that are unavailable to them.